Pastor Raymond Koh’s Abduction Raises Fears of Religious Vigilante Groups in Malaysia

More than two months after his disappearance, Pastor Raymond Koh remains missing, his whereabouts or abductors still unknown, and people are wondering if religious vigilante groups are behind his abduction.
Speculations that Pastor Raymond Koh was abducted by religious vigilante groups are spreading more than two months after his disappearance. Facebook/International Christian Concern

More than two months after his disappearance, Pastor Raymond Koh remains missing, his whereabouts or abductors still unknown, and people are wondering if religious vigilante groups are behind his abduction.

The Malaysian pastor was kidnapped on Feb. 13. His car was blocked by three black SUVs, forcing his car to stop. Trailing behind them were two cars and two motorbikes, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

CCTV footage showed the abduction took place quickly, taking less than a minute. The pastor's son, Jonathan, said it was all "professionally executed."

"The operation was very well planned," Jonathan told the BBC. "They knew who he was, where he was going, and probably had been tracking him."

Two months later, authorities still could not give more information about the abduction except that there were three possible angles. First, that the pastor had "personal issues; second, that he was kidnapped for ransom; and third, that extremists were behind the kidnapping.

Interestingly, Pastor Raymond is not the only one who has gone missing recently. According to the BBC, Pastor Joshua Hilmy and his wife Ruth have also disappeared. They were last sighted on November near Kuala Lumpur.

Former city councilor and social activist Peter Chong went missing less than two weeks ago. The police said he was last seen crossing the Thailand border.

Hermen Shastri, general secretary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia, said Chong showed no signs of distress before he disappeared. On the contrary, "he was excited about wanting to gather young people for an event," the StraitsTimes reported.

Another social activist, Amri Che Mat, was taken from his vehicle in November.

Amri's wife said some people could have taken offense over her husband's involvement in a home building project for the poor. She also said some witnesses saw "suspicious-looking vehicles" outside their house a few days before her husband was taken, according to The Star.

These unexplained disappearances have given rise to the suspicion that the abductions were in fact cases of "forced disappearances," the Malaysian Bar said, hinting that the Malaysian police could be involved somehow.

"The noticeable lack of information on the steps taken by the authorities to locate and recover the five missing persons is most disconcerting, and raises alarming doubts on the adequacy of the safety and security measures in the country," the Malaysian Bar said.  

"This is especially so in the case of Pastor Raymond Koh Keng Joo, as his abduction was captured on video by several closed-circuit television cameras," the report further said.

The disappearances appeared to have a common ground: religion.

Pastor Raymond had been accused of converting Muslims to Christianity. A complaint was filed against him in 2011, but the case was dropped after the authorities conducted investigations.

Last January, another complaint was filed against him for allegedly converting young people to the Christian faith.

"He would never ask anyone to leave Islam," Jonathan said, according to the BBC. "His alleged proselytism is not an excuse for kidnapping. If he did anything wrong, he should have the right as any citizen to trial."

The Inspector General of the Malaysian Police, Khalid Abu Bakar, downplayed rumors that the disappearances were related.

"There is no connection at all," he said.

Meanwhile, Shastri said the abductions are worrying some Christians.

"It's a question on our minds, and some churches are worried it may be a trend ... where those involved in activities related to the poor [are targeted by] vigilante groups," he said.

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